July 19th, 2008 by Stephen James

I notice the Pope has just apologised for sexual abuse by catholic priests in Australia, though one lobby group has complained about the fact that he did not apologise to any of the victims in person, as apparently he did in the U.S.

Why have so many priests been caught ‘interfering’ with children in various parts of the world? It seems unlikely that many of them are paedophiles in the strict sense of being predominantly attracted to children. It seems far more probable that the Catholic Church’s banning of sex for priests is to blame. The majority are probably ’normal’ in their sexual orientation, but deprived of the possibility of openly expressing it, they turn to children, with whom their work brings them into frequent contact. If this is so, the Pope himself bears much of the responsibility for maintaining a system that makes sex between priests and children more likely. And he could also reflect that priestly celibacy has (I think I am right in saying) no biblical basis.

That would be a conservative, albeit fairly unblinkered, take on the issue. Of course there are other concerns less frequently aired. It seems likely that some of the relationships are tender and caring. But they would all suffer from one fundamental flaw. The priest is committed to upholding the doctrines of the Catholic Church including, for example, St. Paul’s opinions about sex. Paul famously thought that the only morally acceptable sexual outlet for a Christian is through marriage (“it is better to marry than to burn”). If you believe that and you are having a sexual relationship with a child or youth, you are creating a great potential for psychic conflict both for yourself and for the young person involved.

I am not a Christian, but I think it is important to make distinctions in our attitudes to Christian belief and the most significant distinctions in my view are ethical. ’Decent’ Christians talk a lot about such things as the Good Samaritan and Jesus’ apparent egalitarianism. They tend to avert their gaze from such things as the Bible’s talk of Hell and (to some extent at least) its sex-negativity. I have a suggestion to make to any Christians reading this. Isn’t it about time you produced a new version of the Bible that keeps the good parts and leaves out the bad ones? I think everyone would benefit.

7 Responses to “Apology”

  1. Strato Says:

    Thanks for the post Stephen. There are some interesting issues wrapped up in this. Why is the catholic church such a frequent target for ‘abuse’ claims? A skeptical person might wonder what is the significance of the fact that the catholic church has settled such claims in the past. If you’re going for a pay-out, it makes sense to target someone with seemingly deep pockets. Equally, what motivated this apology? And to what extent is it related to such legal actions?

    I’d perhaps have more (read: some) respect for the church if it issued an apology for the hundreds of thousands of AIDS-related deaths in Africa for which it is indirectly responsible, through it’s missionaries’ insistence on the evils of contraception.

  2. Joe Says:

    To answer Strato’s question about why the Roman Catholic Church is such a frequent target of claims one must go back to the Reformation. When parishes started to split away from the church they were taking their land and buildings with them. This was costing the church a great deal of money and power, so the Vatican decided to put all church property everywhere under the pope’s office. This makes RC church funds one giant pool (and thus a much more tempting target) compared to most protestant denominations (where ownership of churches and properties is held by the local congregations.)

    As to the larger question of why do priests fail to live up to their vows of celibacy, I think Stephen is only partially correct. Many of the priests who have gotten in trouble indicated that they were aware of their sexual attractions from a young age, wanted them not to be so, and sought out the priesthood – with its vow of celibacy – as a safe harbor from their temptations. Priests were seen as being above matters of the flesh (a view widely reinforced by the Baltimore Catechism.) They felt they wouldn’t have to worry, once sex was no longer an option for them. It was this tragically naive misconception that led them down a slippery slope of rationalizations culminating in unhealthy sexual relationships. From this perspective it wasn’t the celibacy that caused the sexual attraction but, rather, that the vow of celibacy was not enough to restrain it.

    The truth is probably a combination of these two views.

    Oh, BTW, your call for an edited bible was answered a long time ago by Thomas Jefferson. It was a much smaller book.

  3. Daniel Lièvre Says:

    I have yet to actually see data that demonstrates higher rates of priest-boy sex in the RCC when compared to other religious cults.

  4. steve Says:

    When is someone going to state the obvious? The majority of priests were and may still be dealing with ephebophelia issues and not necessarily paedophelia issues. Is it possible that many boys that were bored were only too happy to go with the priests and bring their friends as well to play billiards, go camping etc?

    As the priests may have been interested this created as is normal a mutual interest between the boys and the priests especially when the real fathers had no time for them Everyone got some benefit, no more, no less. For me if discrection was allowed this would be practically a non issue. However when millions are involved those who do not remember their own clergy will jump at the chance to get some money, claim their lives were ruined whether they ever did or did not participate in the party, while the greedy lawyers, the scandla hunting media and law enforcement cash in. Who cares about the debate of celibacy in this context?

  5. culturalterrorist Says:

    hmm, it’s also reflective of the church’s stance on homosexuality.

    If one happens to remember the early copout before the large sum settlements was the removal of any priest or clergy member that admitted to homosexual tendencies or thought, rather than those who mentioned of pedophila or ephebophelia issues.

    One primary case was a priest in Los Angeles, which ‘won’ the right to remain a priest (although moved to an isolated parish) through the legal system. (prior to the faith-based initative)

    Years later, what followed in this mayhem was later believed and partially proven to be a setup – in which they found a 15 year old male to say he was abused. And the church (in the greater context) took an aggressive stance against this priest. Albeit at the time, the media seemed more skeptical of that particular case and the overall aspect … while the church was still shielding others or attempting to “just” distance themselves from the retired priests.

    (which the retired were easier media and criminal targets in the beginning.)

    Ultimately, one could see it’s not particularly about conditions of politics on pedophilia or even homosexuality, but rather socio-political grievances with catholicism … though certainly all the other issues play a part.

    But I would be inclined to believe that it was little more than an open door to launch a massive assault on Catholics and predominately, the church.

    At least from a wayward Jewish perspective; where the political aspect of establishing “Jews” as a people, religion, culture, philosophy, also influences open season to attack us from every possible direction, mostly a form of bigotry, throwing in a social aspect that label us as primarily political and capitalists; social terrorists of a sort. And thats without getting into the controversies of Hasidic or Hasidic-rooted families in america and western countries, and even within other Jewish communities.

    Albeit it may seem a digression, while the focus is still primarily retained on pedophilia … but I am inclined to believe that the greater emphasis with the involvement of specific groups or cultures, be it the Catholic or even aborigines in Australia is more linked to cultural wars and social politics therein, of what becomes socially acceptable bigotry.

  6. culturalterrorist Says:

    I’ve yet to find the name of the sect, but there was a tradition among a group of priests that in a public ritual as part of being officially ‘confirmed,” they would self castrate themselves.. a practice which continued into the early twentieth century.

    One could argue that the celebacy point is moot or particularly it should have been expanded into a promotion of masturbation and use of toys or alternatives.

    Or perhaps better suited in the temporary, as one may serve in military service.

    The argument of celibacy (or even the concepts of exclusive monogamy in marriage or relationships), while may be best served in the temporary arrangements … going in one is to assume that they’re making a commitment with the necessary lifestyle changes for the tents of faith or tradition.

    Frankly, if it became *too much* … there was the option to leave. Albeit it is a difficult task, but self-responsibility on all sides seems to be ignored.

    Or perhaps there was a need of creating greater ‘fellowship’ or acceptable bondings between members of the clergy. Intimacy whether social or physical is required for most humans… which could have been expressed in tradition or ritual, without the inclusion of sexual politics or engagements, such as mikvahs (which do present an aspect of intimacy, even with its recognize homoerotic imagery, is essentially ‘safe’).

    But also I suppose all of it becomes separate to the this or that, it the reality of current sexual politics (alone) to focus pedophilia into its own identitification, separate to the culture and other communities

    so we come to an argumentative area of thought in which either pedophila is separate to all cultures and communities,

    or the communities in which they exist have played a part in the creation of the pedo identity (at least in some of these priests) and therefore, promote its acceptability, given to a floor to present the entire culture/faith/society as pedophiliac in its intentions or purpose.

    So, I suppose if I had to redirect it to the theme of this blog or comments,

    that perhaps the aspect of the culture/community, is to suggest that pedophilia exists within its own reality separate to other cultures, communities or other sexualities, that being recognized as a pedophila, is automatically stripping of all titles and associations, outside of that attraction.

    an IGA person within another culture is just an IGA person.

    That while the conditions set forth in certain environments may hasten the realization of such attractions or even lead to circumstantial practices,

    the question remains if those cultures indeed promote pedophilia or is it completely a separate issue.

    The issue of ‘so many’ … likely deals with the current socio-political climate (Mostly the hysteria to find a scapegoat and to identify the situations or specifically, the groups that are most likely to have the highest concentration of intergeneratioal attractions, leaning behavior and promote a line of practice or intent by these attractions)

    as well as separate individuals’ greed or looking for any forum to make a political statement against the church,

    as well as the more obvious psycho-social reaction of many clergy or even parishners (or perhaps more recognized in early psychology majors) in their involvement with religion or philosophy as it were, to either strengthen their ethics or in attempt to change the reality of their attractions.

    I believe far fewer ever entered on the intentions of possible exploitations or situational circumstances in where they may actively be able to pursue youth, but rather not fitting with traditional society, needing an alternative that would present a possibility of change, support or interactions in a controlled environment.

    But it’s all rather likely to digress into a variety of reasons and much broader examination of history, culture and religion.

    Far too much of this is drenched in the politics, and the politics despite their claims, often moves from the discussion of idealogy to the war of social and interpersonal conflicts.

  7. TWB Says:

    Instead of producing a newer version of the Bible, better they dump the whole thing and admit they know nothing about God.

    If these Catholic priest are so conflicted with their religion, and if having sex is something they know goes against that religion, whether it be with adults or children, then they should drop the act and find something else to do.

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